- The Impossible Whopper drove 5% of Burger King's comparable sales in the U.S. during the third quarter, the brand’s strongest growth since 2015, according to an earnings release. The Impossible Whopper was one of the most successful rollouts in Burger King's history, Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil told investors during an October earnings call.
- Sales were highly incremental and attracted new types of guests, he said. While it attracted millennials and Gen Z consumers that appreciated the product's sustainability, older generations such as Gen Xers that hadn't visited the chain in a while returned to try the Impossible Whopper.
- Cil said the launch provided great momentum, and that the company expects continued growth as adoption of plant-based items increases. He believes the company has a strong plant-based platform and looks forward to expanding it outside the U.S. The chain has already brought plant-based beef and chicken offerings to Sweden. Burger King is also considering expanding plant-based into Latin America and Asia, he said.
Burger King's sales boost is no surprise, especially with early analytics revealing a 2% traffic increase compared to McDonald's since its nationwide launch of the Impossible Whopper this summer. And this is unlikely to be the last product Burger King will have that is plant-based, either.
With the growing popularity of the Impossible Whopper, the company expects plant-based to be a long-term platform and will continue to invest and work closely with franchise partners and with Impossible Foods to drive additional innovation, Cil said.
What is likely helping is that Burger King's closest competitors don’t have any plant-based burger options in the U.S., but this will likely change soon. Wendy's plans to launch a black bean burger next year, executives said during its October Investor Day, and McDonald's is still weighing its options, initially testing a plant-based burger in Ontario, Canada, with Beyond Meat.
"We want to get the taste right. We want to get the marketing right. We want to get the operations right," McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbook told investors during an October earnings call.
McDonald’s third-quarter results revealed declining U.S. traffic and modest sales gains, so it may not have much time to wait on the plant-based trend, especially if Burger King continues to make headway in customer traffic.
Burger King will be one of the largest chains to have the Impossible Burger on the menu the longest, which will help the restaurant fine tune and understand exactly how flexitarian guests respond to the option. It will also have time to figure out how best to cook the burger so that it isn't being cooked on the same grills as meat products, which was an initial criticism among vegans in August. With Impossible Foods gaining a better handle of its supply chain issues and ramping up production, Burger King will likely be on much more solid ground for any future product launches as well.